Saturday, February 26, 2011

News Flash — OKC City Council Elections — MAPS = Tower of Babel

So says the spiritual leader of city council candidates Adrian Van Manen & Clifford Hearron, his church's candidates for Wards 6 and Ward 8 city council elections just 3 days from now.

Their spiritual leader is Tom Vineyard, pastor of the Windsor Hills Baptist Church. In an unsolicited letter to and published in the the February 25, 2011, Oklahoman, he said,

I'm glad that Van Manen and Hearron are focusing upon bolstering our police and fire departments. If you study the Bible, you'll see that God instituted human government in order to protect and defend, not to burden citizens with higher taxes to fund projects not necessary to maintaining peace and safety. OKLAHOMA CITY RESIDENTS WOULD BE WISE TO REMEMBER THAT THE FIRST 'MAPS PROJECT' IN HUMAN HISTORY ENDED WITH GOD CONFUSING THE LANGUAGES AT THE TOWER OF BABEL.

HOLY SHIT! Does that mean that downtown MAPS projects are the equivalent of the Tower of Babel, and that we are on the verge of losing our ability to communicate with each other in Oklahoma City? My friends will no longer understand my language, and I will no longer be able to understand theirs? Sweet Jesus, say that it isn't so.

Credit for the animation in the above goes to Messed-Up Bible Stories.

For reference, the full text of Vineyard's letter to the editor and the King James Version (the only acceptable Bible at Windsor Hills Baptist Church, according to its website) of Genesis, Ch. 11, v. 1-9, which picks up after God destroyed all life but for the people, critters, and bugs that were in Noah's ark, are both shown below.

Vineyard's Letter
History's first 'MAPS' project was the Tower of Babel
Published: February 25, 2011
      'Forum flight: Some challengers to Oklahoma City Council keep low profile' (Our Views, Feb. 22) focused on Adrian Van Manen and Cliff Hearron not attending a forum for city council candidates, but it passed over two other candidates who also weren't at the event. Since the number of Ward 6 and Ward 8 residents in the forum audience isn't known, it makes sense that Hearron and Van Manen would rather knock on people's doors in their wards and talk to actual voters.
      I'm glad that Van Manen and Hearron are focusing upon bolstering our police and fire departments. If you study the Bible, you'll see that God instituted human government in order to protect and defend, not to burden citizens with higher taxes to fund projects not necessary to maintaining peace and safety. Oklahoma City residents would be wise to remember that the first 'MAPS project' in human history ended with God confusing the languages at the Tower of Babel.
      Rev. Tom Vineyard, Oklahoma City
      Vineyard is pastor of Windsor Hills Baptist Church and a leader in the tea party movement, which supports Van Manen and Hearron.
Genesis, Ch. 11, v. 1-9
      1  And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
      2  And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
      3  And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
      4  And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
      5  And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
      6  And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
      7  Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
      8  So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
      9  Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 1 ... Get Off Your Tush and GO VOTE

Updated February 25 to include the Oklahoman's editorial.

It is good to be noticed. After I assembled this video collage which focused on the political activity of Windsor Hills Baptist Church, largely taken from church videos at, most of those videos were removed from I figured that after removed all traces of the earlier collage video which reflected upon the political activities of Windsor Hills Baptist Church and their candidates for Oklahoma City Council that the well from Windsor Hills Baptist Church had been drained dry with nothing more to be seen between then and the March 1 election.

Not quite, as it turned out. I visited again on Sunday, February 20, for a look ... and to my pleasant surprise, I, and you, received a pleasant, "Hi, we'll get back with you" from pastor Tom Vineyard ...

At his campaign website, Cliff Hearron says,
Let me say right up front that our city budget is too big. $869 million is budgeted this year, but only 330-some million dollars is dedicated to basic city services. Simply put, where is the other 500+ million dollars going?
That's a fair question, but it doesn't leave a fair answer to the question, "WHAT PARTS OF THE $550 MILLION WOULD YOU CUT" if you and VanManen are elected? Which city services, presently being rendered, do you guys think are expendable? Help for the needy? Help for transportation? What?

At least part of that answer has to be the city's transit system -- no, not the future system, only the existing. In written responses to Oklahoman questions on Februrary 21, Hearron said,
Public transit should be available where we have enough people to ride it to pay for it. Other than that we don't need it. I believe free enterprise could do a good job of providing public transit for this town and any other town.
What a maroon. Anyone with half ... no, a tenth ... of a brain about public transportation KNOWS that public transportation, e.g. city bus lines around town, city downtown streetcars in the future, the interstate Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Ft. Worth ... public transportation, all of it, is ALWAYS subsidized from the public coffers because no profit would exist for private enterprise were it to do so.

Hence, if Hearron meant what he was saing, Hearron, and I'll tack on VanManen since they are partners in this fray, would eliminate the city's existing bus system altogether since existing-city-bus service cannot ever possibly pay for itself.

If private enterprise made a profit from public transportation, we'd still have trains from Chicago to Oklahoma City to Houston, and we'd still have the private streetcar system that ended in receivership in 1924 ... Tea Party candidates, if you don't get it, that's 87 years ago.

Why doesn't private enterprise step in and do the job? The answer is simple ... there is no profit to be made in public transportation, be it intra-city, be it regional (e.g., Edmond-Oklahoma City-Norman), be it interstate from Kansas to Dallas, from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, or, be it the existing Amtrak train from Oklahoma City to Ft. Worth.

But, candidates Hearron and VanManen, since you are the new experts on the town hall block, please show us ONE CITY in your broad vision of the Tea Party United States of America in which a city's public transportation system pays for itself. You can't.

Other than public transportation which doesn't pay for itself, what else would you cut? The city's modest help for those who are down and out? City parks? What else would be clipped from "the other 500+ million dollars" presently being spent for "non-basic" city services, as you said.

"Dr." VanManen and "Dr." Cliff Hearron, why don't you guys ever appear at public forums with other candidates and discuss your views? Don't you see that, in failing to step on stage with other candidates, you are seen as cowardly and as posturing yourselves as being above public scrutiny?

VOTE ON TUESDAY, MARCH 1. So, what happens if you do not vote on March 1 and you just assume that incumbents Salyer (Ward 6) and Ryan (Ward 8) will be re-elected as commonly occurs for city-council-incumbents? Frankly, my friends, you could get disaster if you don't go to the polls on Tuesday, March 1. The Tea Partiers have premised their potential based upon Oklahoma City's history of low voter turnout for city council elections. They are hardworking zealots who are focused upon getting out their vote.

But, that's just me talking. Read the more reasoned opinion of Bill Bleakley, publisher of Oklahoma Gazette:

You better vote Tuesday!

The quality of our city government is in peril.
Bill Bleakley February 23rd, 2011

Oklahoma City’s incredible record of accomplishments during the past decade could be jeopardized by the outcome of the Oklahoma City Council election on Tuesday.

Voters should carefully examine the backgrounds and qualifications of the candidates before voting, because the differences among them are profound.

Candidates from three of the four wards appear to have the support of political interests that seek to reverse the will citizens expressed in MAPS and to assert political agendas.

In Ward 8, Cliff Hearron challenges incumbent Patrick Ryan. Ryan, a professional engineer, has an outstanding record on the council and as a civic leader, with leadership roles in Allied Arts and the United Way. He retired from a successful career at OGE.

In Ward 6, Adrian Van Manen challenges Meg Salyer. Salyer has spent two decades giving the city her tireless efforts in support of business development and a multitude of nonprofits, while running her own business.

The quality of our city government is in peril.

Hearron and Van Manen, along with Ward 5 Councilman Brian Walters, are being supported by extremely well organized political groups associated with ultraconservative agendas and conspiracy theories alleging United Nations takeover of our cities.

At the heart of the challengers’ campaigns are tea party elements and the Windsor Hills Baptist Church, known for hyperpolitical activities partially documented by Doug Loudenback’s “Underpinnings of OKC Tea Party Candidates” YouTube video. Both Hearron and Van Manen are Windsor Hills members and teach at the church’s school, Oklahoma Baptist College.

The supporters of these three candidates will rely on the traditionally low turn out in city elections to obtain a winning number of votes.

By opposing MAPS and injecting social agendas that should be considered in the state Legislature, if at all, their election would turn back the advances our city has made that have shielded us from much of the economic anguish experienced by the rest of the country.

OKC’s civic projects were voted on and approved by its citizens and are implemented by one of the most effective, honest and transparent city governments in the country. Polls show citizens greatly approve of its accomplishments.

The council’s strength comes from its nonpartisan nature, a willingness of civically engaged citizens to serve, and a focus on issues and initiatives within the scope of city government. Bringing partisan and extreme elements into our city government would be devastating.

Our city government is not broken.

It is in excellent condition and is fiscally responsible. Let’s support and get out the vote for Meg Salyer in Ward 6 and Pat Ryan in Ward 8, both of whom have made substantial contributions.

In addition, David Greenwell is a newcomer to politics and would be an excellent choice in Ward 5. His broad experience in civic service, his professional experiences as a certified public accountant, and his understanding of city finances will serve the city well. His election would help counter the take-over attempts by these partisan groups.

We need council members who are positive and dedicated to our city’s future, not driven by ideologies. Watch out for spurious and negative telephone campaigning attacking Ryan and Salyer.

Do your homework and cast an informed vote on Tuesday. Urge your friends and neighbors in these wards to cast their votes. The quality of our city government is in peril.

Bleakley is publisher of Oklahoma Gazette.

It's not too terribly often that the editorial positions of the Gazette and the Oklahoman match each other but this time they do (except that the Gazette expressed no preference in the Ward 2 race). The Oklahoman's February 25 editorial is shown below:

For Ryan, Salyer, Swinton, Greenwell in Oklahoma City Council races
February 25, 2011

PATRICK Ryan, who represents Ward 8 on the Oklahoma City Council, said recently that he views Tuesday’s council elections as a referendum on the direction our city is headed. He’s absolutely right.

That is why The Oklahoman endorses the candidacies of Ryan and Ward 6 incumbent Meg Salyer, and urges voters to place newcomers Charlie Swinton (Ward 2) and David Greenwell (Ward 5) on the horseshoe. If they win, the city wins.

Ryan, who has served six years, and Salyer, seeking her first full four-year term after having won a special election in 2008, are two of the brightest stars on a council that has helped Oklahoma City accomplish great things. They have gone to bat for their wards while also keeping the entire city’s bests interests in mind, which has served both entities well and is exactly what needs to continue.

Ryan and Salyer have each been targeted by Oklahoma tea party forces, primarily for their support of the MAPS 3 initiative that city voters approved in December 2009. Tea party challengers Cliff Hearron in Ward 8 and Adrian Van Manen in Ward 6 have the support of the police and fire unions, which also sought to see MAPS 3 defeated.

The infusion of partisanship into what are supposed to be nonpartisan races is off-putting enough. But Hearron and Van Manen also have failed to show up at public candidate forums, failed to answer candidate surveys conducted by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, and done little more than simply bash the incumbents.

Ryan, meantime, understands the importance of economic development and is focused on issues related to growth in his ward, such as infrastructure and police and fire protection. Salyer has worked to improve neighborhoods in her multicultural ward, and says basics such as street repair and code enforcement are vitally important.

In Ward 2, Swinton is the clear choice in a six-person race to replace Sam Bowman, who is stepping down. Swinton, a banker, has a firm grasp of the challenges in his ward, such as improving local schools and keeping neighborhoods safe, and wants the council to embrace policy that helps bring jobs to the city.

Greenwell wishes to be an advocate for Ward 5’s economic development — he’s particularly concerned about the decline in retail along Interstate 240 — and quality of life while advancing the agenda of the whole city. That approach is different than incumbent Brian Walters, whose narrow focus is a detriment. An accountant and civic leader, Greenwell is a lifelong resident of south Oklahoma City.

Ryan and Salyer have helped our city keep the momentum that began after approval of the original MAPS nearly 20 years ago. They along with Swinton and Greenwell want to see that momentum continue, and will work to see that it does.

Related Articles

A Fractured Council -- Is That Really What We Want?
On the Importance of Being Worthy of the Public's Trust

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Monday, February 14, 2011

A Fractured City Council -- Is That Really What We Want For Our City?

Query For Oklahoma City Voters:

Do You Want A Collegial Future-Looking City Council or
Do You Want A Fractured Council Based Upon Political Ideology
and/or Religious Persuasion?

If you think you might prefer the latter, this article will present for your consideration what city council was like for the six years between 1959 and 1965, and it will consider the political/religious underpinnings of the two Tea Party candidates who present a common slate today, as well as their current counterparts that they seek to dispossess.

The Underpinnings of the Tea Party Slate Candidates

Join them with council member Brian Walters and you have a group of three, plus who knows what might result from Ward 2's field of six. As you noticed in the above video, Walters called Windsor Hills Baptist Church (per a video posted on February 9) to ask for help in his re-election campaign, and the help was readily given.

For the purposes of argument, let's assume that all three candidates prevail ... Adrian VanManen defeats incumbent Meg Salyer in Ward 6; Cliff Hearron defeats Patrick Ryan in Ward 8; and Brian Walters defeats his challenger David Greenwell in Ward 5. While not yet a majority of the 8-member council, it would certainly represent remarkable progress of the Tea Party to take over Oklahoma City government, that group's stated goal. It must also be remembered that another election will occur in 2013 and then the mayoral election in 2014.

Do you think a paradigm shift in city council can't happen and that no or little concern should be given to the Tea Partiers' goals to take over our city's government?

As you will observe in this article, precedent does exit in Oklahoma City politics for such a major shift in the council's makeup even if that major shift was 180° different than the possibility of what we are looking at today.

Preliminarily, here's a look at the city council breakdown and the holdovers who will be up for re-election in 2013 (or for mayor 2014):
  1. Ward 1: Gary Marrs' term ends in 2013
  2. Ward 2: Sam Bowman's term ends in 2011; he is not running for re-election; the inclinations of the 6 who have filed for his post are not yet known
  3. Ward 3: Larry McAtee's term ends in 2013
  4. Ward 4: Pete White's term ends in 2013
  5. Ward 5: Brian Walters' term ends in 2011; opposed by David Greenwell
  6. Ward 6: Meg Salyer's term ends in 2011; opposed by Adrian VanManen
  7. Ward 7: Skip Kelly's term ends in 2013
  8. Ward 8: Patrick Ryan's term ends in 2011; opposed by Clifford Hearron
  9. Mayor: Mick Cornett's term ends in 2014
Historically, we have no precedents after 1927 for this type of a slate — either a slate based on political party or a slate based upon religion — being proposed for the Oklahoma City Council. But we have historical examples of what happens when city council is deeply fractured among its own members.

Understand that this adventure by the Tea Party and/or Windsor Hills Baptist Church is unlike any city council campaign in Oklahoma City's history. To be sure, slate candidates have been presented earlier in our city's history and we'll look at a couple of them below — but none based upon political party after 1927 (when a new city charter providing for non-partisan elections was adopted) — and none ever have been based upon religion — you won't find a Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jewish, etc., slate being put forward to our city's voters ever before in our city's history.

A CASE STUDY: 1959-1965

We don't have to look back too far to find a period that the city council was fractured and unable to effectively act when considerations were not political-party-or-religious-based but were instead based upon "politics as usual." Let's have a look at 1959-1965 to see if we'd want to revert to a city council milieu similar to the one that existed during that time. Some of the principal players in this story are James Norick, William Kessler, Jack Wilkes, and George Shirk, though there were several others. In this time the city was divided into four wards, each having two council members.

Step back in time, if you will, to April 7, 1959, and relive the following history with one one on the past and one eye on the present ...

A SNAPSHOT LOOK AT 1959 — 1965

James H. Norick Elected Mayor. On April 7, 1959, James H. Norick was elected mayor (in the same vote which repealed prohibition in Oklahoma). His election didn't come easy. In the March 17, 1959, primary, he polled third: Charles R. Burba, 9,994; Merton Bulla, 9,673; and Norick 9,611. Norick asked for a recount and won it by a single vote against Bulla, 9,571 to Bulla's 9,570. In the general election against Burba, Norick won a resounding victory — Norick 58,648 to Burba's 35,682.

Despite that resounding victory, just one month later Norick got a taste of what would often mark the remainder of his 4-year term — on June 9, 1959, his nomination of John Boardman to replace J.D. Patterson on the planning board was rejected by the city council by a 7-0 vote.

1961 Council Elections. In spring 1961, council elections would occur. On February 17, a group calling itself "Good Government League of Oklahoma City" entered the city council election campaign by buying radio advertising time for attacks on the city administration. The group was led by Merton Bulla, William C. Kessler, and Walter M. Harrison, they being announced foes of city trusts and most especially the $63,750,000 Atoka water project which would run water in a pipeline from Lake Atoka in southeastern Oklahoma to Lake Stanley Draper, owned by Oklahoma City. In the election, Kessler opposed incumbent John C. Moran in Ward 1.

On March 16, 1961, the Oklahoman came out against the league, calling it the "Bad Government League." It claimed that the league was engaging in false advertising, was entirely negative without showing positive alternatives, and without disclosing who was financing the organization. Although 21 people ran for the various council positions, the league appears to have had only one candidate, Ward 1's William C. Kessler. In a runoff, Kessler won the Ward 1 spot. The Good Government League of Oklahoma City doesn't seem to have existed after this election. Kessler was regarded as the standard bearer of anti-administration forces.

William C. Kessler. One of Kessler's first attempted actions was the ouster of city manager Sheldon L. Sterling. Kessler lost that vote 6-2, Harold L. Johnson, Ward 4, being the only council member to join Kessler. In April and May, 1962, Kessler and Johnson used delaying tactics to prevent a $11.5 million street improvement bond issue to the people for vote. The bond issue failed when voted upon, 55%-45% (60% needed for passage), even though Kessler's Ward 1 voted for its passage 2-1.

During a July 24, 1961, council meeting, also on a proposed bond election, tempers flared again. "A little later in their debate, Martin demanded that Ware stop interrupting. 'Sit down and keep your damned mouth shut,' Martin flared. Martin was in the process of chiding Ware for failure to provide for relocation or improvement of the north side sewage disposal plant." See this July 25, 1961, article for more detail.

A House Divided. Matters worsened. In its August 30, 1961, editorial, "A House Divided," the Oklahoman said,
Certainly there isn't much reason to suppose the taxpayers are going to embrace any far-reaching bond proposal until the council men themselves are able to agree on what's needed. ¶ But the divided present council's worsening malaise goes much deeper than the manifest differences concerning the scope and cost of the proposed bond issue. Far more disturbing is the possibility that the often unpredictable council majority may be led to act in some instances more out of a spirit of personal vindictiveness than in keeping with the city's best interests. ¶ From the time it became apparent that a new power alignment was forming the city hall has been rocked by firings, rumored firings and recurring departmental shakeups. The end apparently isn't in sight. Councilman William Kessler of Ward 1 says that, 'you haven't seen anything yet.' * * * Thus the Ward 1 councilman makes some rather broad published hints concerning further possible personnel charges. The city charter gives the council and the mayor control over a few enumerated municipal offices and commissions but provides that all other "departments, functions, and boards" shall be under the city manager. Councilmen are enjoined not only from trying to dictate hirings and firings but also from trying to interfere in the work of employees responsible to the city manager. * * * Nevertheless the people aren't entirely without a recourse under the charter. The old charter contained a joker that made recall a practical impossibility. The new charter provides for recall elections when 35 percent of the registered voters in any councilman's ward so petition.
The Oklahoman's invitation for a recall election found no traction. But the implications of Kessler's remark, "you haven't seen anything yet," did.

Kessler as Defacto Mayor. An October 11, 1961, Oklahoman article reported that, "The split in the city council showed no signs of healing Tuesday as William C. Kessler, Ward 1 councilman, was elected vice-mayor for a six-month term by a vote of 5-2. * * * The vice-mayor, serves as a stand-in for the mayor, serving as the presiding officer in his absence, but there is usually very little campaigning for the job although whoever holds it occasionally has the power of making appointments to city boards and commissions. ¶ Martin, the retiring vice mayor, was complimented by Norick for the manner in which he had presided during the mayor's absences. ¶ Kessler, noting this, suggested, 'I guess you won't be traveling so much now.'" As it developed, Norick should have been paying attention.

These were the earliest days of Oklahoma City's Urban Renewal, Oklahoma City having authorized the creation of its Urban Renewal Authority by council vote on June 27, 1961. The 5-member OCURA members were to be appointed by the mayor, with the approval of city council and, so, as a first step, commission members were needed to be appointed by the mayor and approved by council. In June, the mayor said that he would not rush the appointments. About four months later, on October 24, Norick placed his nominees before the city council. At that time, resistance was met, and the matter was delayed for a week. An October 25 Oklahoman article reported that the mayor asked for an opinion from the city counselor's office as to the necessity of city council approval of his nominees, notwithstanding the clear provisions of the city charter that mayoral appointments required city council approval.

On November 1, 1961, the Oklahoman reported,
Norick's Choice for Authority Blocked Again. The city council Tuesday postponed indefinitely the appointment of an Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority after refusing for a second time to consider a list of five names offered by Mayor Norick. * * * The maneuver was blocked by the motion of William C. Kessler, Ward 1, to hold up consideration of the appointments indefinitely. * * * Sage, Aker and Wayne Speegle, Ward 4, voted against the indefinite shelving of appointments. The delaying action gives Kessler, who recently was elected vice-mayor for a six month term, a strong hand in the eventual selections. Kessler will serve in Mayor Norick's absence and could make the appointments anytime the mayor is out of the city, provided, of course, a majority of the councilmen is agreeable.
A November 2, 1962, Oklahoman article reported,
Speculation that city councilmen will attempt to name an Urban Renewal Authority in the absence of Mayor Norick continued Wednesday in spite of denials by individual council members. The chance to name the five-member board will come up at 9 a.m. Thursday when the council meets in an adjourned session to take up matters pertaining to the Oklahoma City Baseball trust ¶ The denials were issued by several city councilmen after the circulation of a list of names for appointment to the authority. These included James W. Bill Berry, former city attorney; Joe C. Scott, city insurance executive; Rube Martin, retired railroad man and union leader who helped manage the election of Harold Johnson, Ward 4 councilman; F.D. Moon, retired school principal, and Earle M. Simon, former city clerk. * * * Kessler said, however, that he has no plans to submit a list of nominees Thursday. "And, frankly, I'd rather not."
However, Kessler's deceit and treachery were revealed on November 3, 1961:
The council, taking advantage of Mayor Norick's absence from the city, pushed through appointment of the five members in a move that was forecast shortly after the mayor's departure for Florida as a guest of the Air Force. * * * William C. Kessler, Ward 1, acting mayor, laid out the list of names at the start of the special meeting, which had been called to act on business of the baseball trust. Ray Martin, Ward 2, protested. "I don't think it is proper and right to take advantage of the mayor being out of town and name his man." * * * [Lonnie] Sage [Ward 2] and Wayne Speegle, Ward 4, did not attend Thursday's meeting. They, with Martin, and occasionally aided by Mayor Norick, have feuded with the majority faction on various matters for several months.
Sidebar: On January 10, 1962, the Oklahoman reported that city council voted 5-1 to "hazard the political liabilities" of proceedings being recorded by a tape recorder. "The vote was a victory by William C. Kessler, Ward 1, who has been campaigning for recording of council proceedings for some time. ¶ The project has been delayed by objections from some members that the tape recordings might be tampered with by someone engaged in political skulduggery."
Citizens continued to be rocked by headlines featuring the shenanigans of Kessler's block at the city council.

This time, under the above headline, the March 21, 1962, Oklahoman article reported on another 5-3 vote, this one concerning a "super trust" to be known as the Oklahoma City Utilities Authority to be established without public vote, that, "The council voting lineup reverted to the familiar 5-3 division which has characterized major actions last year." Apparently, the document establishing the trust had been prepared and signed by the 5-member majority before the council meeting unbeknownst to the mayor and 3-member minority and was sprung on them out of the blue. The article noted that Wayne Speegle, Ward 4, said, "Speegle noted that copies of the 19-page typewritten document distributed to the mayor and councilmen had been signed prior to the meeting by the five majority members."

In retrospect, my sense in reading every Oklahoman article that I could find is that during Mayor James Norick's first term (1959-1963) is that, while his heart may have been in the right place, he was a largely ineffectual leader and was not given to public combat with the more aggressive negative leadership provided by William C. Kessler and his three, sometimes four, council cohorts. One will not find a city endeavor boldly spearheaded against opposition by James H. Norick during his first tenure as mayor. In fact, it appears to me that after Kessler's election in 1961 until the elections in March 1963 that Kessler was Oklahoma City's defacto mayor and leader, leaving Norick sitting on the sidelines. Maybe I've missed something important that would cause me to rethink that conclusion, but, as it stands, I've not seen it yet.

Association for Responsible Government. After three years of mayor and council fracture, not to mention the years which preceded the election of James Norick, a new group established itself in 1963, the "Association for Responsible Government," it being announced in the Oklahoman on January 22, 1963. The article said,
A group of Oklahoma City citizens organized as the "Association for Responsible Government" revealed plans Monday for sponsoring a slate of candidates for city councilmen and mayor in the coming spring elections. Frank Carey, city lumber dealer and president of the newly formed group, said the association will finance and help conduct the campaigns of the candidates selected.
Its goal was to obtain a 20,000 members by $1.00 contributions and to use that money to pay expenses in the various campaigns. "Candidates placed on the association's slate will be asked to agree not to accept personal campaign contributions," the article said. Of the group's initial 100 members, leaders of the group were Frank E. Carey, Jr., president; John W. Johnston, executive vice president; Paul Odom, Jr., secretary; John N. Booth, treasurer; and vice presidents James E. Work, Ralph L. Bolen, Murray Cabell, and Lee Sneed, Jr. In a series of numerous advertisements, citizens were invited to join and submit their nominees for consideration. In a February 20, 1963, editorial, the Oklahoman called the movement a "Fresh Breeze."

On February 20, the ARG announced its slate of candidates: Mayor – Jack S. Wilkes, president of Oklahoma City University; Ward 1 – F.M. Petree, board chairman of Home Mortgage and Investment Company; Ward 2 – Jerome W. Byrd, aeronautical and structural engineer and head of Byrd Manufacturing; Ward 3 – Frank Love, vice president of Kerr-McGee Oil Industries; and Ward 4 – Joe Dodson, cafeteria owner and operator.

James H. Norick ran for re-election. As to him not being included in ARG's slate, in a March 15 ARG advertisement, it said,
Because it was clear he wanted to run again, his candidacy was given fair and deliberate consideration by leading citizens from all sections of the city. A careful review of his record, however, showed he had failed to take a strong and courageous stand on any issue of importance to the city during his entire four-year administration. The Association nominating committee therefore concluded this lack of leadership was a major reason for the divided, indecisive council which has failed in repeated attempts to find a solution to the city's financial plight. It was further noted by Association leaders that under our present mayor's administration, the city council ceased to function as the legislative body which our city charter requires. This condition has resulted in damaging the morale of city department heads and dedicated employees who must be assured that their jobs are secure and their services appreciated.
A typical hard-hitting ARG ad from the March 16, 1963, Oklahoman is shown below (click the image for a larger view):

The results of the primary were a smashing 5-0 victory for the ARG. Mayor – Wilkes 33,694, Norick 15,931, Gillespie 1,387; Ward 1 – Petree 12,345, others 3,306; Ward 2 – Byrd 7,636, others 4,384; Ward 3 – Love 7,459, others 3,758. Only in Ward 4 was a general election required: Johnson 5,745, others 5,872 – the 2nd highest vote-getter was Jimmie Birdsong, 1,957, Bill Bishop garnering 1,836. In the general election for Ward 4, the ARG sweep became complete – in light voting, the votes were Johnson 5,914, Birdsong 2,460.

But, of course, the four council holdovers were not up for reelection in 1963 — William C. Kessler (Ward 1), William E. Ware (Ward 2), A.A. Aker (Ward 3), and Harold Johnson (Ward 4) were still there.

But business would not be quite as usual. The June 1, 1963, Oklahoman, reported that all four, plus, City Manager Robert T. Luttrell, were the subjects of Oklahoma County grand jury proceedings. The article said,
All were members of the old majority faction which ruled city hall for two years prior to the clean-sweep victory of the Association for Responsible Government mayor-council slate in April. Luttrell is stepping down as city manager July 1 regardless of any ouster action. * * * The grand jurors listed seven counts against Johnson, six each against Ware and Kessler, and five against Aker.
See the article for more specific information. Largely, the charges related to using their positions a council members to influence decisions which belonged to the city manager under Oklahoma City's charter. A June 3, 1963, Oklahoman editorial said,
In a prepared statement read to the council last February Luttrell quoted sections of the charter stipulating that city councilmen shouldn't interfere with the manager in the hiring and firing of employees and that councilmen who did that should be subject to removal. He went on to say that in the preceding weeks he had been "subjected to a great deal of pressure to fire some of our most loyal and devoted department heads and other equally fine employees." Luttrell didn't name any names on that occasion but the Oklahoma County grand jury did in its recent report. It said Harold L. Johnson, William C. Kessler and William E. Ware had violated the charger by exerting pressures on the city manager "to remove certain employees which under the charter came within the exclusive control of said city manager."
The County (now called District) Attorney filed charges, but through a series of successful legal maneuvers during July-August 1963, the charges were successfully avoided.

As to William E. Ware, the city council on its own motion decided to hold a hearing on whether he should be removed from office for misconduct for using his influence to hire men from his district in different municipal departments. See Oklahoman October 16, 1963. However, that hearing never appears to have happened. Whether that result figured into the next part of this story I am uncertain. But, it would certainly not be surprising if it did.

In an unexpected announcement, Wilkes advised that he would leave his mayoral post by May 31, 1964, and become president of Centenary College at Shreveport, Louisiana, thereby leaving ARG and Oklahoma City in the lurch. By that time, Ware was still sitting as a member of the Oklahoma city council. Who would the next mayor be, and how would that be determined? In the absence of the mayor to break ties, the old and tarnished leaders lead by Kessler, and the new ARG leaders, were 4 to 4 in number. The city charter provided that upon a mayoral vacancy the council would select one of its own to become mayor. Unless one or more of the "old" and "new" groups would say, "Uncle," that was not about to happen, the result being that the city would have no mayor for about three years. As a practical matter, and remembering that the mayor only voted to break ties in council member votes, that would mean that from whichever group, old or new, the mayor would come, the result would be that the group, old or new, would be reduced to a block of three while the other group would be a block of four.

The ARG members, led by a motion of F.M. Petree, favored that a new mayor be chosen from outside the council — notwithstanding that the city charter provided otherwise. That possibility was opposed by the "old" group, Kessler facetiously quipping, "That would be fine if they would let me do it."

The Compromise — George H. Shirk. At the time, Shirk was not a resident of Oklahoma City, even though he lived in an area already set to be annexed by the city — a quarter mile wide by one-half mile long along the east side of I-35 and north of NE 50th, between Bryant and Vernon Road. Shirk's credentials included being a member of the citizen's group that helped write amendments to the city charter adopted in 1957, a former member of the police commission, president of the Oklahoma Historical Society, and former president of the Greater Oklahoma City Safety Council.

The appointment of Shirk took a decidedly weird path. First, council member Ware mentioned earlier resigned his council position. Second, the council appointed Shirk to be his replacement. Third, the council named Shirk as mayor. Fourth, Ware was reappointed to his former council seat. So, if the council's charges against Ware weren't earlier resolved, this action by the council certainly provided that closure. Ware was home free.

In the end, the 4-4 alignments on council remained the same and Oklahoma City had a new mayor to replace Wilkes.

The Last Year of Derision. Neither the 1963 elections nor the 1964 mayoral compromise produced a city council which was marked by the signs of collegiality and respect. That story, the story of a fractured city council, would last until 1965. It is then that the ARG engaged in its last hurrah by electing its slate which replaced all of the old hold-overs, including Kessler, who remained true to himself.

As an example, in 1964 the city faced a $5 million deficit for operating expenses (e.g., salaries, police, fire, etc.). As a solution, a majority of the council, excluding Kessler, concurred on putting an earnings tax proposal for one-half of one percent to a vote of the people on October 29. The tax, estimated to produce $4 million annual revenue, was opposed by an opposition group, the "Fair Play Group of Oklahoma County," headed by Kessler. The tax was defeated by a vote of 25,663 favoring to 27,340 opposed, a difference of 1,677 votes. Even if Kessler's position had been diminished, it was clearly not without its effect.

As for Kessler personally, he put his 1964 toe into state politics, first the state senate and then the state house. In February, he was roundly defeated in the Democrat primary by Cleeta John Rogers, 59,599 to 28,003. In September as the Democrat nominee for House District 87, he lost in the general election to Republican Georg Camp, 4,746 to 4,098. Left for Kessler as his only political option was the Oklahoma City council race in March 1965.

The Association for Responsible Government cranked itself up again — it was dormant between elections — and produced a slate of 4 council candidates but no mayor candidate. Shirk ran for election but he was not included in the ARG slate. The primary vote occurred on March 16 and the general election, where needed, was on April 7. Shirk easily won as mayor; in Ward 1 Kessler was solidly defeated in the primary by ARG candidate H.T. "Hank" Moran (Moran 10,037; Kessler 4,253; S. May 676); in Ward 2 incumbent William E. Ware lost in the primary and in the general election ARG candidate Guy M. James defeated Dr. A.L. Dowell 8,894 to 7,796; in Ward 3 ARG candidate Dr. Harry Deupree defeated Nelson E. Keller 5,043 to 4,267 in the primary; and in Ward 4, Bill H. Bishop defeated ARG candidate Hugh L. Riley 4,986 to 2,316 in the general election. The general result was that 7 of the 8 council members were ARG candidates.

Perhaps wanting to have a final word and only a few days before the primary election, it probably surprised no one to see a headline like the one in a March 10, 1965, Oklahoman article below.

Click a link above for the full article. The fracas arose during an exchange between James H. Johnson and Kessler over a southside sewer bond project, which, of course, is much less interesting than the reported dialog:
The basis of the Kessler-James H. Johnson clash was James H. Johnson's defense of the ARG-sponsored reforms over the past two years. "The conditions are not as they were when we came down here. There are not four people under indictment by the grand jury. There are not patronage cards being passed about in the City Hall," James H. Johnson asserted.

Kessler interrupted: "Stop there. You are lying through your teeth and you know it." Kessler left the council chamber ahead of final adjournment which came a few minutes later and was waiting in the corridor leading from the chamber to the executive offices. ¶ Standing toe to toe, he and Johnson exchanged angry words. At one point, Kessler said he would take care of the matter "right here." ¶ Other councilmen broke it up and the two participants walked along, continuing the argument. Outside the city manager's office, there was another threatening exchange with Kessler warning, "you're going to find yourself in court."
That didn't happen, but instead Kessler found himself without a political office a week later.

After the election, the city still needed new revenue to deal with a serious deficit in the cost of city operations. In a unanimous vote, the new council decided to submit a proposal for a 1-penny sales tax to the people as the solution. This time, a united city council and city voted by a 2-1 margin (36,877 to 17,271) to approve the measure.

Looking back at this history, which part do we like the most — the time that council was divided and accomplished little, or the time in 1965 at long last that council leadership came together and, with the citizens, acted to find a remedy to the problems that existed by doing what needed to be done?

Neither political party nor religion-based factors were in any way involved during the 1959-1965 period of the city's political history. It was just what some would call crappy politics as usual — people who didn't have power doing their best to get it — people who didn't like city employees (or wanting to favor others) doing their best to get them fired or hired — people who had a focus on their own personal agendas and not the city's as a whole.

The MAPS Era. The Association for Responsible Government no longer exits and it didn't in 1993. Coming forward to contemporary times, there has been no need for it to.

After the adoption of the initial Metropolitan Area Projects initiative in 1993, the city council and mayor have been collegial, civil, and have walked hand-in-hand with the citizens, with few exceptions. To be sure, that doesn't mean that differences have not existed, and they have. But, by and large, council members have worked together for the city's common good, and their common vision for the progress of the city in its role of improving the livability of the city — good for citizens, good for attracting business, good for attracting visitors.

That represents a 17+ year period of time. During that time, we have witnessed (1) the widening and beautification of the Oklahoma River and its becoming an Olympic and world-class rowing and kayaking venue; (2) biking and walking trails around the river and other places in the city; (3) the AAA Bricktown Ballpark; (4) the Civic Center Music Hall becoming a 1st class venue for music, dance, and plays; (5) a beautiful and excellent downtown library and learning center; (6) a major league NBA arena and team; (7) a canal flowing through Bricktown for a relaxing change of pace. (8) We have also seen the defunct Skirvin Hotel getting new life breathed into it on its deathbed to become the ever-so-magnificent Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At a more basic level, (9) 1998's MAPS 2 infused $512 million into the city's public schools, and a (10) 2007 bond election is pumping another $500 million into city streets.

On top of that, MAPS 3 promises to (11) create a gorgeous downtown park; (12) establish a downtown streetcar system as the beginning point for other Oklahoma City rail which will hopefully develop in the future; (13) make improvements on the Oklahoma River to solidify its position in the US and the world for its rowing and kayaking venues; (14) create a recreational and competitive fast water venue near the Oklahoma River; (15) make improvements at the state fairgrounds; (16) create senior citizen wellness centers; (17) complete citizen walking and biking trails and sidewalks; and (18) build a new convention center ... if I've not left anything out. With the relocation of I-40 through downtown, a beautiful boulevard is set to replace it through downtown.

And who amongst us is not bursting with pride over the decision of Devon Energy Corporation to build its world headquarters in downtown Oklahoma City, it being the 50-story Devon Energy Center which is rising toward the sky as we speak?

The relevance to this discussion is that Larry Nichols, Executive Chairman and co-founder of Devon, has said publicly that, were it not for the accomplishments of MAPS 1 in improving quality of life here and its attendant spin-off effects upon private investment downtown, most likely Devon Energy would not have remained in Oklahoma City where it is firmly planted today but would instead have moved to Houston.

If people cannot see beyond the end of their noses to appreciate, and value, city leaders who have demonstrated vision and inspired citizens, individual or corporate, to invest in their home town and improve more than police, fire, streets, city code enforcement, well, with respect I submit that they are badly in need of eye replacements at the least and that they have no business running for or being being mayors or members of city council — not of MY cityand not of YOURS.

How Do These Developments Over 17 Years Time Resonate With the People? The city has maintained for some time that it has a very high approval of the public. That's all good ... but how about something independent to reflect upon public approval.

The Oklahoma Gazette conducted a scientific poll in January 2011, with a margin of error stated to be ± 5.26 percent. The results ...

Unless the Tea Partiers want to challenge that poll, they would reasonably conclude that citizens are pleased with our city leadership and most especially with the direction that the city is going.

Think about it — how much different would it be today were we to replace a city council which finds great favor with the city with new elements of party-based, or worse, religion-based, sources of rancor in which many don't share the values of the Tea Party candidates. Were such people have been in power during the past 17+ years, it is fair to wonder,
  1. MAPS 1 Generally: Would the vision embodied in the original maps ever have been advanced in the first place?
  2. MAPS 1 Leadership: If you think that such a vision might have been advanced, which of the Tea Party sponsored candidates, VanManen, Hearron, or Walters, would have taken the role of making that happen?
  3. MAPS 1 Projects Particularly: If you think that one, some, or all of such candidates would have taken such a role, which of the projects described above, #s 1-7, would they likely have NOT supported?
  4. The Skirvin: Can you even begin to imagine that candidates VanManen, Hearron, or Walters would have supported the action of 3 mayoral administrations to accomplish the rebirth of the dead Skirvin to becoming the Skirvin Hilton that it did?
  5. As To The City Having an NBA team: Can you begin to think that (a) the city could have gotten one without the MAPS 1 arena being built and (b) the city would have taken the aggressive leadership provide by Mayor Cornett in 2007 to insure the arena's improvement and the establishment of a team's practice facility? And which of these guys do you think would have traveled to New York even before the Hornets were here to meet with NBA Commissioner David Stern, when the seeds were planted with him for the possibilities of Oklahoma City being the host of a major league team?
  6. As To MAPS 3: Which of candidates VanManen, Hearron, or Walters, would have advocated the MAPS 3 items above, #11-#18, as the next step in the process of continuing a progressive vision for our city and our children and grandchildren? I triple-dog-dare you — name just one of them who would. Walters was the only council member to oppose MAPS 3. In their respective interviews with Gwin Faulconer Lippert on January 28, candidates VanManen and Hearron gave at least a glimpse into their minds. Said VanManen: "I would rather spend money like I've said for police and fire protection and for streets and roads than I would for what's taking place in city center. I just think that our priorities are misplaced," and, about downtown streetcars, "Well, the thing that I, uh, the response that is have to that is, you're spending $125 or so million dollars on a fixed mile fixed track and people will still have to get in their cars to drive down there to be able to appreciate and to ride on it. I just think that it's misplaced, very much so." In the same interviews, Cliff Hearron said, "Well, first of all, my voters in Ward 8 don't want it. They didn't want it. I voted against it. The vote was 54 to 46 or thereabout, it was about half and half." Actually, Hearron's Ward 8 voted in favor of MAPS 3 by a vote of 8,628 (66%) Yes to 4,469 (34%) No, in unofficial returns. He also said, "What I would think we should do with it now that we have it is re-evaluate it over the next year – because I really believe we are going to change the complexion of the council quite a bit ..."
  7. As To Public Availability To Inquire. Oklahoman reporter and friend of mine Steve Lackmeyer inquired whether these two candidates were ducking the voters in his OkcCentral blog. As had been reported in a February 19 Oklahoman article by Michael Baker, all 13 candidates for city council had been invited to participate in a forum hosted by Chesapeake Energy on Friday, February 18. While Brian Walters of Ward 5 found it possible to attend (and I give him props for that – he is at least one if not more cuts above his allies for doing so), neither Tea Partier VanManon, Ward 6, nor Hearron, Ward 8, showed up to say what they were about or answer questions from those in attendance. This was not the first time that VanManon and Hearron declined public scrutiny. In a February 9 article by Clifton Adcock, the Oklahoma Gazette article reads, in part:
            Hearron and Van Manen, who both attend Windsor Hills Baptist Church and work at the church’s Oklahoma Baptist College, scheduled interviews with the Gazette. However, after learning that Windsor Hills pastor Tom Vineyard had been interviewed by the Gazette for a separate story about the pastor’s call for Police Chief Bill Citty’s resignation following Citty’s comments on gun control, Hearron canceled the interview.
            When contacted about the cancellation, Hearron said he was offended the Gazette asked Vineyard if Citty’s comments had been one of the reasons Hearron and Van Manen decided to run for council. Van Manen did not return a subsequent phone message.
"Offended by ...?" Look, Clifford, you are in the public eye by your own choice. And you have the gall to take offense by the content and/or tone of a reporter's question put straightforwardly to you, and decline to be interviewed? What does that say about your qualifications to take the heat of being a city council member who has to make tough and possibly controversial decisions and then face the scrutiny of the public? You have said that you want to do the people's business ... so is it too much to ask that you take a few questions from them?

I submit to you that the election of the Tea Party nominees would return our city to the fractured times of 1959-1965. The only saving grace would be that the Tea Partiers would be powerless to undo the good which has already occurred. As to the future after their ascendancy to power, it would not then be too late to resurrect a symbol and organization from the fractured period, should that be needed ...

Many if not most Oklahoma Citians are proud of what has happened here during the past 17+ years. We are not so myopic or simple-minded as to be only concerned about police, fire, roads, or code enforcement, as important as such basic items are. Well beyond that, we value the importance of civic vision, instilled in us principally by Mayor Ron Norick, of what our city can be if we choose for it to be so. As well,we are inheritors of the vision of Neal Horton who had faith in his baby, Bricktown, that he never got to see even as it emerged like a Phoenix after his death.

For those of us who like the city's direction, and if the Gazette's poll is correct that is about 79% of Oklahoma City citizens, that can mean only these things:
  • In Ward 8: Vote for incumbent Patrick Ryan and defeat Cliff Hearron, Hearron falsely saying that his Ward disfavored MAPS 3 when, in fact, his Ward supported MAPS 3 by a vote of 8,628 Yes to 4,469 No (unofficial returns).

  • In Ward 6: Vote for incumbent Meg Salyer and defeat Adrian VanManen.

  • In Ward 5: Vote for challenger David Greenwell who says that he is committed to "making certain the voters get everything that was promised [in MAPS 3], and defeat incumbent Brian Walters who voted against MAPS 3 even being submitted to a vote of the people in the first place.

  • Don't Vote and Let Others Make Your Choice For You. That is the suggestion of Sooner Tea Party leader Al Gerhart. In his January 2011 newsletter, he said,
            We have two Tea Party candidates for OKC City Council, Cliff Hearron for Ward 8 and Adrian Van Manen for Ward 6.
            Cliff is a retired military officer, an avid Tea Party member, and wants to put the brakes on out of control spending and taxes at the city level. Cliff believes that the core purposes of the city are being neglected while millions are spent developing downtown that profit a few wealthy property developers. Police and fire assets have withered, and our roads have suffered while perfectly good downtown roads were ripped up. Privatization of some city services and stopping Agenda 21 here in the city are two of Cliff’s issues he will be championing.
            Adrian is a long time Sooner Tea Party Meetup goup member. The Meetup group is the hard charging group of activists that are the core of the Sooner Tea Party. Adrian has been known to bring a dozen friends from his church, Windsor Hills Baptist Church, to the precinct walks. Both he and Cliff are strong supporters of our Constitution and want to see Oklahoma City draw down social and welfare costs so the city can focus on what government is supposed to do.
            The OKC City Council is composed of 8 members. Only one, Brian Walters, is conservative. These races are very low turnout; literally a couple thousand voters will choose who gets the seat, so we stand an excellent chance of winning these two seats if we put money and effort into the races.
The next step, and the responsibility for the outcome, is in our hands as voters on March 1.
Also, see these related articles

Tuesday, March 1 - Get Off Your Tush & Vote
A Council Divided

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

MAPS 3: On the Importance of Being Earnest Worthy of the Public's Trust

Original article: January 31, 2011; updated February 9, 2011, to add 2 appendices from the Oklahoman

Oklahoma City Council, December 21, 2010

On December 21, 2010, and out of the blue during a presentation by Rick Cain, director of the Central Oklahoma Transportation & Parking Authority (COTPA), on the progress of Alternative Analysis, mild-mannered Rick Cain's presentation was hijacked by council member Pete White to turn the agenda item into a discussion as to whether the downtown streetcar element of MAPS 3 should have been a part of MAPS 3 in the first place and to argue and advocate that it should be changed now, before it is too late. Among many other things, he said that he regretted his earlier vote which moved forward downtown streetcars as a part of MAPS 3.

In a second stormy discussion on January 4, 2011, councilman White reiterated the same views and said that the downtown streetcar represented a poor prioritization of the city's public transportation needs. A listener could fairly conclude that he was a bit of a bully in his banter with streetcar advocate Jeff Bezdek who was present and spoke at the council meeting because of White's December 21 comments. Listen and judge for yourself.
By the council's January 18, 2011, meeting, less than a month after his December 21 remarks, White implicitly backtracked and begrudgingly said, "I too think that we will come to a solution that will make us all satisfied, under the circumstances, that we have the best that we can get. Again, I say, under the circumstances." Pete's predilection to be redundant only served to emphasize that he wasn't pleased to have made his more general statement. He didn't identify the "circumstances" that were in his mind to say.

By January 27, judging by Councilman Larry McAtee's remarks at a meeting of the MAPS3 Oversight/Advisory Board, it sounded as though the firestorm that Pete started (in at least some quarters) had been put out. He said, "But the commitment is, cause there were some questions, people say, 'Are we committed to a modern streetcar with tracks in the ground,' and I think the answer to that is emphatically, would you agree, Eric, 'Yes.' [Eric:] "Yes."
"So if you're approached by people about that you need to give them that assurance. Cause in the past couple of weeks there've been some comments made that might confuse some people."

That's all good. But lids are not always so easily put back on Pandora's Boxes.

Preliminary Comments
A Few Words About Oklahoma City Before & After MAPS
MAPS 3 Passed Because of the Public's Trust
A council divided by the Tea Party could mark the end of an era
The Tea Partiers' Common Bond
The End of an Era?
Partial transcript of December 21 remarks
Partial transcript of January 4 remarks
Partial transcript of January 18 remarks
Partial transcript of January 27 remarks
Partial transcript of interview of Adrian Van Manen
Partial transcript of interview of Clifford Hearron
Oklahoman Editorial on January 13, 2011, regarding rail
Oklahoman Editorial on February 7, 2011, regarding Tea Party

PRELIMINARY COMMENTS. Two groups of things need to be said before going further.

        PERSONAL. It gives me distress and no pleasure at all to write this article. I've deliberately gone slowly with this as a possible project for several reasons: I've not wanted to knee-jerk; I've been uncertain about whether to even do such an article since Pete is a friend and a fellow Oklahoma City history buff; and I've been uncertain about the need for the article, thinking maybe that the problem might just go away.

My personal knowledge of Pete is altogether positive. He is a tell-it-like-it-is type of guy, is genuinely concerned about our city, and he tends to the needs of his constituents. He is a seasoned lawyer and is the senior council member when it comes to longevity. He is smart, is deliberate, and understands and knows his environment, and he is not one known to be so foolish as to make knee-jerk outbursts which he might later want to take back. He is also politically savvy and understands who is audience is when he is speaking, and he speaks to that audience. At one point on December 21, he looked at Rick Cain and said,
I'm not talking to you, Rick, I'm talking to whoever's looking at me out there.
I guess that that means you, me, and the rest of the citizens. Like many others, I was listening.

Having given my personal opinion of Pete White, I must nonetheless conclude that his remarks were wrong, they were foolish, and they were seeds which, if root is taken, could well mark the end of the public's trust in city government to make good on its promises, and, hence, the end of the MAPS process as we have known it for more than 17 years.

        They were wrong because to time to debate the projects to be included in MAPS 3 was BEFORE the MAPS 3 vote, not after.

        They were foolish because the remarks represent the first step of a possible breaking of the high degree of public trust in our city's government to keep its capital improvements promises.

        Seeds sown. Pete's remarks were the first made by a sitting council member which suggested that MAPS 3 ought to be re-thought and were the first which suggested that the promises made in 2009 need not be kept. If 17-years of the public's trust comes to and end, it is not conceivable the public would trust the city again to fulfill later promises in a part 4 version of MAPS 6-7 years from now when a later capital improvement plan may come by city leadership to be put to a vote of the people.
This saying is not original but it nonetheless a has an enduring ring of truth — fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Pete White is deserving of a legacy much better than that, and I hope that he acts and speaks swiftly to mitigate against the harm already done. I have invited him to comment here if he likes, an offer thus far declined. If he does, his unedited words will appear here.

In the end of considering whether to write this article, I concluded that if a council member as solid as Pete is willing to publicly flirt with revision by council of the MAPS 3 promises made, it could certainly happen that others serving on the council or their replacements might be willing to do the same. In the end, I reached the conclusion that the article ought to be done.

        THE MERITS OR DEMERITS OF DOWNTOWN RAIL. Pete's comments on December 21 and January 4 challenged the merits of including downtown streetcars in MAPS 3 — that is what HE set as the topic to be debated. With respect, he was absolutely mistaken to attempt to revisit what has already been decided by the voters. This article will not engage the points which he redundantly attempted to make, even though the various, "And that's my point's" which he made are not at all difficult to challenge and quite successfully. Nor will I challenge his credibility in saying that the opinions he expressed were lately formed "as the process has gone forward" though that would not be difficult, either — nothing that he expressed on December 21 and January 4 was not obvious in September 2009 when he voted to send downtown rail forward to MAPS to the people for vote. The only thing "new" when he made his comments were the graphics presented by Rick Cain during his preliminary Alternatives Analysis report which contained possibilities of where track might be laid. But, even then, Pete knew that the routes shown by Rick were speculative and that another committee was charged with actually coming up with the recommended routes. All of Pete's arguments would have been fair game BEFORE THE MAPS 3 VOTE OCCURRED, the proper time for such matters to be debated.

But, his proffered debate topic comes too late. The promises were made in 2009 and the voters voted in 2009, and they voted, "Yes," even though Pete said on January 4, 2011, that he wasn't so sure that the voters knew what they were voting about. What a crock.

This article is about keeping promises and being worthy of the public's trust, not the merits or demerits of a fixed downtown streetcar system costing $20 million a mile — I'll avoid saying that three times before I say, "And that's my point."

A BRIEF SUMMARY OF DOWNTOWN BEFORE & AFTER MAPS. Without duplicating what was already said in the above initial video, before the original MAPS, a bond of trust did not exist between city leadership and citizens — at least, not to the extent that it did beginning with the successful completion of the original Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) approved by city voters in December 1993. Depending on how far one wants to go back in time, it wasn't city leadership that inspired the formation of Oklahoma City, particularly its downtown. Individual entrepreneurs did that, and they did that in times that "downtown" was the presumed locus of primary importance and identity. You won't find any "MAPS" type things back in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s. In the 1980s, Mayor Andy Coats made a stab at it with his "Six To Fix" proposal. It consisted of six separate ballots submitted to the people, most of which failed to pass.

By the mid-1950s through the 1970s, it had become evident that private investors were clearly not nearly as interested in downtown for their investments as they once were — easier money was to be made in developing suburban shopping and entertainment areas. It became clear that if downtown was going to be "saved," that would happen as the result of city public leadership.

During the city's 1960s-1980s Urban Renewal phase, city leadership tried to recapture the importance of downtown, all being done by vote of the City Council and/or the Urban Renewal Authority of the city. No public vote was involved in anything that occurred during the "Pei Plan" era. None — city leadership simply presumed to know what was best and then endeavored to do it. Without elaboration, as far as the general objectives were concerned, Urban Renewal was a failure. It was a failure without a single vote by the citizens as to what was going on.

The Oil Bust and Penn Square Bank failure in 1982 marked the end of any significant progress with the Pei Plan and Urban Renewal, as originally contemplated, was dead. While there were a few new shiny new buildings downtown and the Myriad Gardens got built, there were many more gaping holes — blocks upon blocks of empty space where buildings once stood, including virtually all of the pre-existing downtown retail and all of the grand old movie theaters. All were gone.

Citizen pride in the city may well have reached its all time low. There was no thought about Oklahoma City becoming a "Tier 2 City" or the host of a major professional athletic team. For all but office workers, downtown was dead. By October 1984, the city's population had declined for the first time in decades — more people were leaving the city than were moving to it.

But in 1992 or 1993 at a Chamber of Commerce retreat, an idea was born. WHAT IF the part of the the North Canadian River could turn into an actual water area instead of a place to dump an unwanted television set? WHAT IF the long-hoped-for new public library could get built? WHAT IF a canal could get built in the then budding Bricktown? WHAT IF a fine AAA baseball stadium could be built in Bricktown? WHAT IF the music hall could get overhauled to turn it in to a classy place for the arts for which all would be proud? WHAT IF a sports arena could be constructed which — hope against hope — might lure a major league hockey or basketball franchise? WHAT IF?

With a handful of such WHAT IF's in mind, under the leadership of Mayor Ron Norick and the business community and citizen interest groups, working hand in hand, downtown would become forever changed.

No need should exist to detail further what occurred after the original MAPS vote on December 14, 1993. Even though tax revenues weren't sufficient under the original 5-year sales tax period to raise sufficient funds to build the sports arena, under the leadership of Mayor Kirk Humphreys we, the citizens, were sufficiently pumped up in our city once again to readily vote to extend the tax by another six months to get that done. And then Mayor Humphreys put forward his MAPS For Kids (MAPS 2) campaign, a 7-year $512 million program to provide much needed capital improvement to the city's public schools, it passing by 60.6% of the vote. Although not a part of MAPS, city voters approved a December 2007 $500 million bond election to improve our city's streets, parks, and bridges, a process which is ongoing as this is written. And, then, in December 2007 when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity appeared to be on the horizon for the city to host an NBA franchise if improvements were made to the Ford Center and a practice facility were constructed, voters readily voted (by 62%) to extend the penny tax to get that done. And who among us is not proud of the Skirvin Hilton Hotel? That project, too, must be attributed to the progressive city leadership that, in the main, we have enjoyed during this same period of time.

MAPS 3 PASSED BECAUSE OF THE PUBLIC'S TRUST. And then came MAPS 3, Mayor Mick Cornett providing the leadership. This offering was the boldest MAPS offering made thus far, and the longest. 7¾ years, $777 million.

This time, though, the ballot was different. City leadership said that legal changes prohibited the projects from being listed in the ballot. Instead, the projects were identified in an accompanying resolution adopted by city council in which those projects were identified. Consequently, much more of a leap of faith was required this time for the vote to pass — the reason being that city council resolutions can be changed by the majority vote of the council and such changes do not involve a vote of the people. If a capital improvement sales tax identifies a particular project, voters have recourse to the courts to enforce that the funds be used for the identified purpose. Not so with a city council resolution.

The public was only given an oral, not a written, promise — if the tax vote passes, the projects will get done. Call it what you like — foolhardiness, an unenforceable handshake promise, whatever, citizens voted to trust city leadership and MAPS 3 passed. That passage would not have occurred had the promises since 1993 not been kept — any arguments from any of you about that?

A COUNCIL DIVIDED BY THE TEA PARTY COULD MARK THE END OF AN ERA. Against this background, Pete White announced his opposition to the streetcar element of MAPS 3 on December 21, 2010. He restated his opposition again on January 18, 2011. He appeared to implicitly back off from his opposition on January 18, 2011, even though not very enthusiastically. "I too think that we will come to a solution that will make us all satisfied, under the circumstances, that we have the best that we can get. Again, I say, under the circumstances." (Note to Pete: I heard you the 1st time. Enough already — you're hurting my ears.)

By making his earlier comments, though, it is reasonable to say that he inadvertently played into the hands of those who were, and are, opposed to MAPS 3, or at least the particular parts of it for which they might not have much fondness — or to use Pete's word, "enchantment" — or all of it in principle. I will be amazed if Pete's December 21 and January 4 remarks don't get repeated numerous times during the present council election process. When he spoke, he may have been unaware that MAPS as we have known it might face its greatest threat — partisan politics under the umbrella of the group known as the Tea Party.

Oklahoma City is in the midst of an election campaign for 4 of its 8 city council seats. The primary election will occur on March 1 and, if needed, a general election will occur on April 5. In Ward 2, incumbent Sam Bowman chose not to run for re-election and six are vying for that post. In Ward 5, incumbent Brian Walters, the only present council member to be unsupportive of MAPS 3, is considered by many to be of the Tea Party persuasion and he has its support. He is opposed by accountant David Greenwell. In Ward 6, incumbent Meg Salyer is opposed by Tea Party candidate Adrian Van Manen. In Ward 8, incumbent Patrick Ryan is opposed by Tea Party candidate Clifford Hearron. The Oklahoma City 2009 ward and precinct map is shown below ... changes may have occurred since 2009 but the map should be substantially the same today. Click the image for a larger view.

See this Oklahoman article for more about the candidates. Among other things, the article reports,
“I can't think of a better way to shake up the politicians than to wrest control of the biggest city in the state from the progressives and liberal's hands,” wrote Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart in the January newsletter posted on the group's website.
Is it even within the realm of Twilight Zone conceivability that Tea Party leadership would have provided the leadership that Ron Norick did in MAPS 1? Can one reasonably envision that the city would have purchased the empty and decrepit Skirvin Hotel and worked in a public-private partnership with Marcus Hotels which led to the hotel's reopening as the Skirvin Hilton in 2007? Right. Dream on, teenage queen. These guys show no interest in the city's core and with them at the helm the accomplishments under MAPS 1 would be nothing but empty dreams. The Skirvin would either be demolished or standing and continuing to decay.

Gwin Faulconer Lippert interviewed Van Manen and Hearron on January 28 for her KTOK show which aired on January 30, 2011. Only the MAPS 3 Q&A parts are shown in this brief audio clip from those interviews.
Both candidates favored spending money on police, fire, and streets, and tended to disfavor tax money being spent on the city's core. Streetcars weren't favored by either and public downtown investment appears to be off of their radar.
During his interview, Hearron was asked, "So if we have new council members do you think that, then, there is no promise?", and he replied, "Well, I don't even look at it like that. Here's how I look at it. The people need to direct the way they want it to go regardless of any promises or otherwise from the council."

Funny thing ... didn't we already do that when we voted "YES" on December 8, 2009?

Earlier in the interview, he said that he and other council members should "re-evaluate it over the next year – because I really believe we are going to change the complexion of the council quite a bit." Van Manen said, "I would rather spend money like I've said for police and fire protection and for streets and roads than I would for what's taking place in city center," and about the downtown streetcar he said, "I just think that it's [money to be spent] misplaced, very much so."

With such comments, it is evident that the candidates feel little if any obligation to fulfill the promises contained in the council resolution which accompanied the ballot and the statements made during the campaign that the projects we were voting on would get done.

For the full interviews, click here and locate Gwin Faulconer Lippert's podcasts for January 30, 2011. Unofficial returns in these wards for the MAPS 3 December 8, 2009, vote were as follows:
Ward 62,512 (51%)2,455 (49%)
Ward 88,628 (66%)4,469 (34%)
So, contrary to Hearron's observation that his ward 8 didn't/doesn't favor MAPS 3, in his ward 66% of them did when the ballots were cast on December 8, 2009.

        The Challengers' Common Bond. The common bond for both Tea Party challengers is their active membership in the Windsor Hills Baptist Church located at 5517 Northwest 23rd Street, slightly east of MacArthur. The church is located in Ward 3 which ward is represented on the city council by Larry McAtee whose term doesn't end until 2013. The church describes itself with these words: "Windsor Hills Baptist Church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located on NW 23rd Street in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma." It operates the Oklahoma Baptist College & Institute at the same general location and the church is active in world-wide missionary work. Both Cliff Hearron and Adrian Van Manen are shown as college faculty members.

Evidently, missionary work is no longer limited to saving souls and preaching the Gospel. "Adrian has been known to bring a dozen friends from his church, Windsor Hills Baptist Church, to the precinct walks," said the Sooner Tea Party's January newsletter. Reaching out from their Ward 3 church and college location, Van Manen and Hearron bring their Tea Party political message into Wards 6 and 8. The city's 2009 ward and precinct map, together with the location of Windsor Hills Baptist Church, the epicenter of the Tea Party candidates' hoped for council-quake, is shown below. Click on the map for a larger view.

Compare the websites of Tea Partiers Adrian Van Manen and Cliff Hearron and you will observe that slate and/or party politics is revisiting Oklahoma City after an absence of many years. In Oklahoma City, the mayoral and council members are elected on a non-partisan ballot, a process that has worked well for Oklahoma City for many years. With the Tea Partiers, though, it is different.

The Sooner Tea Party has its aim on Oklahoma City government, according to its January newsletter. The following comments were made there on January 1, 2011:
* * * we have stayed out of local politics for the most part. That is about to change radically! The infrastucture and experienced we gained over the last year are about to be put to good use.
        We have two Tea Party candidates for OKC City Council, Cliff Hearron for Ward 8 and Adrian Van Manen for Ward 6.
        Cliff is a retired military officer, an avid Tea Party member, and wants to put the brakes on out of control spending and taxes at the city level. Cliff believes that the core purposes of the city are being neglected while millions are spent developing downtown that profit a few wealthy property developers. Police and fire assets have withered, and our roads have suffered while perfectly good downtown roads were ripped up. Privatization of some city services and stopping Agenda 21 here in the city are two of Cliff’s issues he will be championing.
        Adrian is a long time Sooner Tea Party Meetup group member. The Meetup group is the hard charging group of activists that are the core of the Sooner Tea Party. Adrian has been known to bring a dozen friends from his church, Windsor Hills Baptist Church, to the precinct walks. Both he and Cliff are strong supporters of our Constitution and want to see Oklahoma City draw down social and welfare costs so the city can focus on what government is supposed to do.
        The OKC City Council is composed of 8 members. Only one, Brian Walters, is conservative. These races are very low turnout; literally a couple thousand voters will choose who gets the seat, so we stand an excellent chance of winning these two seats if we put money and effort into the races. No doubt other conservative candidates will be found before the filing deadline, so the Tea Party could simply take control of OKC city government if we can rally the Tea Party members.
Its February 1, 2011, article said,
We have three candidates that we support at this time: Adrian Van Manen, Ward 6, Cliff Hearron, Ward 8, Brian Walters, Ward 5.
END OF THE MAPS ERA? I would be amazed if this is the kind of city leadership that councilman Pete White would want to see for our city in his worst nightmare. He would probably not take pleasure in giving aid and comfort to this development, even if done unintentionally. His words already were already injected into the January 28 interview by Gwin Faulconer Lippert of Cliff Hearron.

Our 17-year history of MAPS has been led by civic leaders who had civic vision well beyond streets, fire, and police, and Pete White has been one of those leaders. But the 17-year accumulation of public trust didn't come easily. It was built and earned, year by year, project by project, as citizens witnessed their leaders keeping their promises. The products of that leadership has caused us to see ourselves, as a city, differently and caused us to become proud of our city once again. Since the citizens voted "Yes" and paid for those projects, they, too, deserve the credit, and the pride. Yes, that means you and me. WE did it, although we wouldn't have done so without the public leaders that we have been blessed with since 1993.

That magnificent citizen-public leader trust could be dashed in a flash if we are all not very careful, and that includes the impromptu or planned speech of council members in a public setting. Keeping promises is what makes the 17-years of city council leadership worthy and deserving of trust. This is no time to start breaking them — and, actually, no such time will ever occur in the future. But, with certainty, it is the time to take the city council races seriously.

If the public's trust in city leadership keeping its promises comes to be broken in 2011, many years from now local historians may well be able to look back and identify 2011 as the end of the city's MAPS period. Even if that sad event comes to pass, chances are good, though, that those historians will call the MAPS period one of the most glorious in the city's history.

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Appendix 1
Excerpts From Pete White's Statements On December 21, 2010
          I .. I ... I ... was one that was never really, uh ... wholeheartedly supportive of the drowntown streetcar system to begin with. Only when the hub was made a part of it did it become attractive enough to get my vote to send it forward to MAPS.
          And as the process has gone forward, I've become less enchanted with it today than I was when I was barely able to vote for it to send it forward.
          The cost of it and the fixed nature of it to me, is just, uh, one of those ideas that I think we're gonna regret as time goes forward.
* * *
          As I see it going forward and as I see what the cost of it is gonna be and how few people its going to serve and how much better that money could be spent on overall transportation things ... I ... I ... I'm just becoming ... I'm much less enchanted with it today than I was.
* * *
          I ... I ... just ... uh, it ... it ... uh ...I think we're going to regret this project. I don't think we're going to regret the hub study. I don't think we're going to regret making a transpor ... if we put a transportation system in downtown that would work. But I think we're going to regret spending $120 million dollars on something that's fixed that only serves 5 or6 miles downtown ***
* * *
          At the risk of having to agree with Ernest Istook the rubber tired system to me is a better answer over the long pull than a permanent $120 million dollar in the ground system that we don't have any idea what the ridership's going to be, we don't know what the maintenance costs are going to be ... I ... I'm more disenchanted with it today, not based on what you've told me, but based on the process of what's gone on, the more I find out about it, about where it's going to be, the cost of putting it in the ground, the permanence of it when it's put into the ground, the difficulty and the cost to expand it ... I feel we're going to live to regret this and I want to be on record now after the fact after I already voted for it once in saying that I'm ... I regret doing that.
* * *
          I think we can do better.
* * *
          Before it's too late we oughta all rethink ... I think we can still be consistent with what we promised the voters ... in terms of a rail system and make it one that has a possibility of working.
* * *
          We ... we ... talk about being conservative. We ... everybody wants to talk about how conservative they are. Yet here we are talking about getting money from the federal government to pay for something here that we then have to finance the operation of that we are not sure is gonna pay for itself. I mean, where's the conservatism in that?
          We need to be intellectually consistent when we talking about what we're doing here. If we're talking about going to get money because it's there, we've got a really great example. COTPA has a really great example of going to get federal money and then taking money out of operations to fund it for something that doesn't pay for itself. We got a huge one. It's in our budget every year, we pay for it. I just don't think that makes sense.
          I think the idea of chasing these federal dollars, because we can get 'em, if we can't finance it on our own later, I don't think that's conservative, I think that's being foolish. I think that's being financially foolish, to do that.
          I'm not talking to you, Rick, I'm talking to whoever's looking at me out there.
          But I, but I, I think that's a mistake, and I hear that all the time here. Well, the federal government is going to do this, and the federal gov ... what is that about? Where's the intellectual consistency in doing that? I mean, we're the one ... our taxpayers here have to pay for the financing of this. If it's not ... if it doesn't make financial sense, then that to me that ought to be the first question, not the last question.
* * *
          Jim, I don't want anybody to misunderstand. I understand that transit is subsidized. I vote for it every year. And I've not regretted that ... except ... I regret being put in position to subsidize transit when it doesn't provide transportation for regular people that want to get from point A to point B. That's the problem and I'm afraid that's what we're doing here.
          I mean, if I need a street car to take me from here to the First National Building, we sure as hell don't need to be spending all this money on walkability. I mean, you can call me a cab and get me to the First National Building for less money than this is going to cost. Every time I wan to go, just get me a cab. Because there's not enough people need to go from here to the First National on a street car to make it make sense. And that's my point.
          Since you're talking to me, I'd like to comment. You misunderstand. I'm not against transportation downtown. I'm against $20 million dollars a mile for transportation that can't be changed. That's what I'm against. I'm not against transportation downtown. There are other busses besides these unwieldy-looking trolleys that we've got that never have worked. There are other ways to do it besides that. But not at the cost of $20 million dollars a mile. That's what I'm opposed to. We have people in this town that can't get to work because they can't afford it because we don't have an extensive enough bus route to get 'em yet. And yet we're willing to sink $20 million dollars a mile to get you from Robinson to Walker. I mean, that's what I'm opposed to.
          Don't misunderstand me. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not opposed to downtown transportation. I have consistently voted to subsidize all the transportation and advocated for more of it. What I'm opposed to is what I consider a wasteful expenditure of 20 million dollars a mile to do a fixed system. That's what I'm opposed to. Not getting you from Robinson to Walker, I'm all for that. But I think we can do it for less than 20 million dollars a mile.

Appendix 2
Comments by Pete White & Jeff Bezdek on January 4, 2011
[The springboard for Pete White's comments were citizen presentations by Nick Roberts and Jeff Bezdek. The trailing part of Jeff Bezdek's comments which lead to Pete White's remarks appears below.]
Jeff Bezdek: What we did in MAPS was, we said, what can we start with in the 2006 Guideway Study. What can we afford to build. And we looked at * * * Do you have any questions? And, I just want to say it's just important that you get involved in the process. We don't want to show up and recommend things that are going to be debated.
* * *
Pete White: I think perhaps Jeff and the other speaker missed the point of what I said last time. And I'm going to say it one more time, or two more times, or three more times as I generally do. This really is not about whether we have a good transit system downtown. This is really about what is long term best for the people that live in Oklahoma City. A year ago, two years ago, we had to fight for like $40,000 to get enough money to put people on buses that need those buses that need those buses to get back and forth to work and it was like pulling teeth to get it done. And yet we're willing to drop $120,000,000 on a system that will make it easy for people to get from point A to point B, point A being a block from point B or two blocks from point B, we'll spend $120,000,000 on that and we'll leave people standing at bus stops that need that need the job, that it's important to them, we'll just totally ignore that. I drive by a bus stop every day that's not sheltered, there must be 7, 8 people there almost all the time, we don't have a conscience about that. We just let that go. Nobody around here's talking about that. And yet we're willing to talk about to spending $100,000,000 getting this young guy who could walk the block that he's going to have to walk to go from point A to point B, we're willing to spend $120,000,000 moving him. That's my point. That's my point. My point is I think we ought to move people around downtown. I think that'd be a great deal. I think that'd be a great deal. I just wonder whether or not our priorities are not misplaced. Every study I've seen, Jeff you've seen four million studies for every one I've seen, but every one that I've seen says, before you start the system, before you start really investing in a transit system, you ought to have a good metropolitan bus system.. And despite Rick's best efforts, and I think he's done a great job, and anything ... except the comment I made about his tie last week ... everything else, uh, I think you couldn't ask for anybody to do a better job than he's done. With the money he has, he's ... but he doesn't have enough money to make it work. And yet we're just, we're just, we're just going to run down this like this like lemmings off the cliff and dump this money into a system that's 5 or 6 miles long and it's to provide a service for people that aren't even here yet, when I've got people freezing their tush off at 74th and Santa Fe that use the bus system to get back and forth to work. And we can't ... there's nobody ... when we did the bus system, there were several people down here, poor people. Poor people that needed the bus system to get back and forth to work on. And we were able to scrounge up $40,000 and improve the system. Nobody speaks for those people. Who speaks for them now. We're speaking for a system that costs, as you said, an average of $20,000,000 a mile, and the idea that it's going to get cheaper in the future, I want to know what you're smoking. I don't know what, I don't know what gets cheaper in the future. I haven't seen that yet.
Jeff Bezdek: Mr. White, that's not very kind ...
Pete White: It's not very kind from my standpoint for you to advocate for a system that serves a select group of people that are not here yet in deference to people that need a bus system to get back and forth to work. That's where I'm coming from.
* * *
[Jeff Bezdek attempted a reply but was interrupted by Pete White.]
* * * Mr. White, I am going finish. Look. We can build bus shelters with MAPS money. That's permanent. And there's very little operating costs associated with that. But, in terms of running more buses with MAPS money that is not possible without some other funding mechanism or you taking funds away from some other needed city program to fund ongoing operations. It's that simple. The supporters that supported MAPS wanted transit involved. The polling reflected that. And then the polling continued to reflect ... *** The public was educated on what they voted on. They did not go into this ... [Pete speaks inaudibly in the background] ... no, wait a minute, I saw the numbers, and they did not go into this knowing that, expecting to have class A bus service around the city or commuter rail to Edmond or Norman. This was portrayed as the start to a regional system. It is the last mile of that system. It connects to the hub and it distributes and picks up people for that future system. Now, we would love to stretch it as far out as we can go but it costs a lot of money to do that. And, again, the difference between the buses and street cars is its permanency. Now, we have ... [Pete speaks inaudibly in the background] ... I'm not telling you, I'm not telling you stupid, that you're stupid, I'm telling that we have a philosophical argument going on here when I would rather have a technical argument, and the technical argument is that the voters voted for this, they supported it, they knew what they were voting for, and now we need to build it.
Pete White: Jeff, we're on two different wavelinks about that, also. I'm not sure the voters did understand what they were voting for.

Appendix 3
Comments by Larry McAtee & Pete White on January 18, 2011
Larry McAtee: Thank you, your honor. As you all know, I'm the [council's] representative on the MAPS oversight committee and as that representative I attend the oversight meetings once a month. This past week, I've stepped outside of that role a little bit and I sat in on the subcommittee dealing with the modern streetcar. And it was a very informative meeting to sit in on and the committee is very enthusiastic and very diligent in trying to bring back to us in some point in time a recommendation to the process to build out the modern streetcar. And one of the things that came up, and I don't know whether Eric has had a chance to talk to you or not, Jim, but one of the things that came up in our conversation, Eric and mine afterwards was, maybe we as a council on a monthly basis with all these different subcommittees going at different speeds in looking at their particular areas, might benefit from having Eric come in on a monthly basis and just give us an overview of where the different subcommittees are in their thinking and what the progress is. But progress is being made on that. They are well aware of the issues that have been discussed here at the horseshoe and I think we can look forward in the future from some good recommendations coming from that particular subcommittee. Thank you your honor.

Pete White: * * * Secondly, I agree with what Larry said because I've had some very very good contacts with people involved in the modern streetcar program about some of the issues that I've raised and I, too, think that we will come to a solution that will make us all satisfied under the circumstances that we have the best we can get. Again, I say under the circumstances.

Appendix 4
Excerpt of Comments by Larry McAtee on January 27, 2011,
At MAPS 3 Oversight Committee Meeting
Larry McAtee (referencing his attendance the day before at a Modern Streetcar subcommittee meeting): In that discussion at the end of the [modern streetcar subcommittee] meeting they asked for council perspective. And, I was very very encouraged, and I've been asked by several people, "What's the modern streetcar system going to be?" And I tell them this, "I'm committed, I think your council is committed, and I hope you are all committed, to having roughly a 6-mile transportation system, that will have rails that are in the ground, that will be up to date in its design and stay tune for particulars later on. But the commitment is, cause there were some questions, people say, "Are we committed to a modern streetcar with tracks in the ground," and I think the answer to that is emphatically, would you agree, Eric, "Yes." [Eric:] Yes. [Larry:] So if you're approached by people about that you need to give them that assurance. Cause in the past couple of weeks there've been some comments made that might confuse some people. * * *

Appendix 5
Excerpts from Gwin Faulconer Lippert's January 28 Interview With Adrian Van Manen, Candidate for Ward 6 vs. Incumbent Meg Salyer
        GFL: Let me ask you then specifically about MASPS 3. The reason I'm interested in this that ... as you know, it passed ... but it passed on a kind of a Yes No vote. There was no specifications, really, I mean it was $777 million dollars, but the council can actually change the plan. How would you interface with MAPS if you were on the council?
        AVM: Well, first of all, having arrived late in the game after it's been passed, I would have to follow the law that's been passed and try to work with that. I don't know what situations that will come up. I would rather spend money like I've said for police and fire protection and for streets and roads than I would for what's taking place in city center. I just think that our priorities are misplaced. But I wouldn't know how to answer that question until I sat, you know, in the council meetings and heard things as they came up.
        GFL: Sure. Do you think since you are throwing your interest and support more toward police and fire and streets, which I would call infrastructure if you will, that that would make some people deliberately campaign against you or vote against you ala the Chamber of Commerce and those kind of groups?
        AVM: I'm fully expecting it. But, that's why I put my hat in my right for that very reason, uh, to change our priorities — move toward every citizen benefitting from sales tax money.
        GFL: And, uh, do you have an opinion at this point about the streetcar and the transit system here in Oklahoma City?
        AVM: Well, the thing that I, uh, the response that is have to that is, you're spending $125 or so million dollars on a fixed mile fixed track and people will still have to get in their cars to drive down there to be able to appreciate and to ride on it. I just think that it's misplaced, very much so.
        GFL: Let me ask you about the convention center because that would be also part of that.
        AVM: Uh, I don't have a strong opinion on that, other than the fact that the MAPS 3 got passed, and, you know, as time goes by, with like you said, it's not a fixed law that they have to abide by so they're going to adjust as time goes on.. I really don't have a strong opinion on that at this time.

Appendix 6
Excerpts from Gwin Faulconer Lippert's January 28 Interview With Clifford Hearron, Candidate for Ward 8 vs. Incumbent Patrick Ryan
        GFL: One of the things that I love to ask everybody is about MAPS 3. And this is why. MAPS 3 was a Yes No vote. Yes we want the sales tax. No we don't. And most people think, "Oh, no, MAPS 3 was a plan." No, it wasn't. It was a Yes No vote. And the council, really, can change what that money goes to. Now I don't know if you heard councilman White a few weeks ago say, "I think the transit is way too expensive and I feel sorry for my people that they can't get a bus to wherever they need to go." So, if, on the council, would you change part of MAPS, or how would you approach MAPS 3?
        CH: Well, first of all, my voters in Ward 8 don't want it. They didn't want it. I voted against it. The vote was 54 to 46 or thereabout, it was about half and half. But we have it. We have MAPS 3. What I would think we should do with it now that we have it is re-evaluate it over the next year – because I really believe we are going to change the complexion of the council quite a bit – and I would like to hear in the meantime more from Ward 8 voters because I represent them regarding the future of MAPS. Some parts of it are probably quite good. Other parts of it I disagree with and, uh, but I wouldn't want to go it here on the air. I would just say that I side with most of the Ward 8 voters that I've talked to – and I'm still up around 90% right there – that MAPS 3 was not the way to go.
        GFL: Uh, I know that the council feels very strongly that they made a promise to the people. So if we have new council members do you think that, then, there is no promise?
        CH: Well, I don't even look at it like that. Here's how I look at it. The people need to direct they way they want it to go regardless of any promises or otherwise from the council. The council is there to do the people's business, not to do the council's business. And I expect to do the people's business when I am on the council.
        GFL: Now, do you think that possibly there will be those that will come after you and your campaign – because certainly the Chamber of Commerce wants MAPS 3 to be like what the plan was supposed to be – do you feel at risk for coming out and being so candid with me?
        CH: Absolutely not. As I said before, the truth always prevails.
        GFL: And, so, uh, if elected, how would you approach MAPS 3?
        CH: Well, I would evaluate it, along with the rest of the members of the council, re-evaluate it, and find out where we stand right now and see what needs to be done.
        GFL: Do you have a thought about the transit budget and the transit situation, I mean, you know, as councilman White said, he does not think that six miles pays enough – or is enough return on investment.
        CH: Yeah. Look, again, I don't look at it from return on investment. What I look at it is, do the people want it, do the people need it, will the people ride it, and then get the best service for them.

Appendix 7
OklahomanEditorial on January 13, 2011
Oklahoma City voters made their streetcar desires clear
        Voters were promised a streetcar system when they approved MAPS 3. It's a promise that must be kept on track.
        Building it will be expensive — $20 million a mile or more — and it will be confined to downtown/Bricktown. It would primarily be used by tourists and downtown workers and residents.
        Yes, the city's bus system that serves many residents who don't live downtown needs improvement. But the streetcar system and the bus system are separate issues. Ward 4 City Councilman Pete White and others want to scrap the fixed-track system for a cheaper alternative and shift spending to the bus system.
        Nothing would turn off voters more in future initiatives such as MAPS than to have an unkept promise lingering from the previous vote. Nothing would give opponents of a future vote more ammunition.
        We believe MAPS 3's passage was aided by voters excited by the streetcar system even if they weren't enthusiastic about other projects in the $777 million initiative. Since MAPS 3's passage in December 2009, the city has sought citizen input on the streetcar system; the response has been enthusiastic. No such ardor exists for shifting MAPS funds to a system using rubber-tired vehicles.
        The streetcar system may never match its predecessor, scrapped in 1947 in favor of buses, but it's the start of an exciting new phase in Oklahoma City's progress.
        More importantly, the system would be a promise kept to voters.

Appendix 8
OklahomanEditorial on February 8, 2011

Tea party's focus on Oklahoma City Council troubling
        We have written occasionally about partisanship creeping into what are supposed to be elections for nonpartisan offices. This unfortunate trend is occurring with a vengeance in two Oklahoma City Council races.
        Ward 6 councilor Meg Salyer and Ward 8 councilor Patrick Ryan, two of the shining lights on the panel, each face opposition backed by the tea party in Oklahoma.
        The challengers, Adrian Van Manen in Ward 6 and Clifford Hearron in Ward 8, say they know the races are nonpartisan but that they're not about to separate themselves from those who feel the same way they do about government.
        Hearron challenged The Oklahoman's Michael Baker to show him someone who is “a true nonpartisan.” He continued: “Given what we've got, I'd rather see the tea party take it over.”
        This is disconcerting, not only because partisan politics has no place on the city council, but also because Salyer and Ryan have done an excellent job working for their wards and for the benefit of the entire city. Oklahoma City's growth and standing today are the envy of many cities around the nation. This is due in no small part to the willingness of council members to put politics aside and work together.
        The co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party said he would delight in being able to “wrest control of the biggest city in the state from the progressives' and liberals' hands.” That sort of rhetoric is troubling, and city residents should remember it when they vote March 1.

Also, see these related articles

Tuesday, March 1 - Get Off Your Tush & Vote
A Fractured City Council - Is That Really What We Want

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